Electoral system to be scrutinised

POLITICIANS have set themselves a four-month target to decide if the way we elect people to the Dáil is fit for purpose.

The Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution will explore if the Dáil accurately represents the public, if there are too many TDs and whether or not people should be allowed vote at 16.

The Committee will investigate ways of boosting the number of women in national politics and look at alternative ways instead of by-elections to fill vacancies in the Dáil.

At a press conference the Committee conceded it had a poor record of getting support for its referendum recommendations from successive governments.

However, its members said they hoped if they acted in a cross-party fashion their parliamentary colleagues would be obliged to act.

And Green Party Senator Dan Boyle said it was not necessary for the Committee to focus its recommendations on constitutional changes if some measures could be introduced by all-party consent.

“This Committee has a long and honourable history as an Oireachtas Committee of producing I think nine reports on the constitution that suggested manifold changes and the Oireachtas failed to respond to any of those recommendations.

“I think we are coming to a situation now... that we can examine our political system in the light of the electoral systems that exist elsewhere and ask ourselves the question; does our system work better or not? And if not why not?” he said.

Labour deputy Brendan Howlin said the most damning indictment of the Oireachtas’ failure to act on the Committee’s wisdom was the 30 years it has taken to make some progress on the Kenny Report.

This report sought constitutional protection against land speculation.

But Mr Howlin said there was an appetite for change on the issue of electoral reform

“It is important from a political perspective that this isn’t seen as an academic exercise. It is something that is serious.

“I think there is for the first time, certainly in my career in the Dáil, there is an openness to make significant change that I have never seen before,” he said.

Committee chairman Sean Ardagh said experts from Trinity College and University College Dublin would be drafted in to assist the review of the relevant Article of 16 of the Constitution.

And he expects its work to be completed by January.

Mr Ardagh said the Committee will examine if the system of proportional representation rewards politicians who are “overly preoccupied” with local issues rather than concentrating on improving national policy.

He is seeking written submissions from the public.


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